Fr. Arthur Ntembula – Milan, Italy
As we all know, today, humanity is hit by a calamity that has disturbed the normal flow of life. The basic questions that many of us are asking are, “But when will this thing end? When will we return to enjoy our normal life? Where is God in all this?” Economists are worried about the impact it is having on the world or local economies. Doctors are concerned about saving as many lives as possible. Scientists are worried about finding a vaccine to eradicate this little monster completely. Journalists are worried about making available all the necessary information as much as possible. Political leaders are worried about putting in place measures that will prevent further spread of the virus.
When they faithful cant gather for public worship anymore
The Church is also worried about something: How will the people’s faith be sustained during this challenging moment when the faithful can’t gather in public worship anymore?
“If people cannot come to Church, the Church should go to the people.” The current situation at hand challenges the Church to make cyberspace an environment of worship that sustains people’s faith. It is unfortunate that this challenge comes at a time when we are just about to celebrate the paschal mysteries of Christ. For many people, this year, Easter celebrations will find them at home. For Catholics, this is a huge test to their faith. Did you ever imagine not going to Church on Good Friday, on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday? It is hard even to think about it, but that’s the reality we are in now, and we must face it.
Media as a space for evangelization
Regardless of what is happening, the Church can sanctify cyberspace with its presence. This opens us more widely to the necessity and possibility of evangelization through the media, both social and traditional. During this crisis, the Church, be it Small Christian Community, parish, diocesan or universal, is compelled to shift its focus from the physical building to the cyberspace.
Cyberspace, when used effectively, can make the faithful feel closer to Christ and his Church even if they are not able to come to the physical Church for worship. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is already leading the way. He has already set the pace. And he has always emphasised the need for priests, to take particular interest in the various tools of communication that we have in order to bring forward Christ’s message.
Priests can reach their parishioners through electronic gadgets
People cannot come to Church anymore, but pastoral agents can help them feel the caring hand of the Church and the blessing presence of Christ in their homes. During this time, people are spending more time looking at their electronic gadgets, surfing for information on the net, on Facebook, exchanging messages in WhatsApp and whatnot. Priests can still reach their parishioners through the same means by way of streaming live masses, taking time to write and post short homilies and sending recorded messages or videoclips on aspects of faith. It is even possible to hold marriage catechism lessons via conference calls.
Pulpit evangelization is no longer enough
Now is not the time to relax because we are not on holiday. It is time to be even more vigorous in our pastoral work of evangelization. Indeed, not all parishioners are on social media or are connected. Still, you will be surprised to know how your message will reach even those that are not connected to the virtual community.
One might say, “But I am not even on Facebook or Instagram or twitter etc…how will I do this cyberspace thing?” Well, the situation now requires that you consider joining the social media community or at least create content that those who are already connected to the virtual community can post on your behalf or on their platforms. It will help you to remain united with your parishioners so that they feel the care of their pastor in their home. In today’s world, pastoral agents cannot be comfortable with the pulpit evangelization only. If the Church must move together with the people, priests cannot sit back and only wait for people to come to the parish. We need to step up and go out to meet them wherever they are. If they are on Facebook, let us pitch the tent of our parish in that space and continue to reach out to them.
The Body of Christ is not restricted to the physical alone. We are a spiritual body, as well.